Climate change is becoming a hard sell. When the computer models get the next day’s forecast wrong, it’s hard to persuade anyone to pay attention to their predictions of what the Earth’s climate will be a half-century from now. Saving the world from imaginative calamity and catastrophe is never easy, and President Obama came away from a global-warming sales pitch in India with an echo of what salesmen dread to hear, a slammed door.
The holy grail of environmental fanatics — and their friends in high places, like the White House — is a legally binding agreement among nations to limit greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, they blame for global warming (and never mind that carbon dioxide is essential for life and that the globe isn’t actually warming). Since handshakes are more likely to mean something when palms are greased, enthusiasts for the pact are trying to shake down wealthy nations for $100 billion to distribute to developing nations for “green” projects. They hope to make a deal final at the United Nations annual climate summit late this year in Paris.
Mr. Obama flew halfway around the world for the cause last week to persuade India’s 1.2 billion consumers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions. He warned an audience in New Delhi of the consequences of not climbing aboard the climate change bandwagon. “Here’s the truth,” he said, “even if countries like the United States curb our emissions, if growing countries like India — with soaring energy needs — don’t also embrace cleaner fuels, we don’t stand a chance against climate change.” If a pitch to voluntary compliance wasn’t enough, he offered $1 billion in assistance for renewable energy products.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi didn’t bite, either the carrot or the stick, and balked at signing on the dotted line. “India was also not willing to make any bilateral commitment until [it] submitted its intended domestically determined contribution,” concluded the Hindustan Times. India isn’t about to accede to a grand U.S. energy strategy before mapping out something of its own.
It’s not the first time Mr. Obama has offered a carrot and got only the essence of onion and garlic in return. In November, the president tried to sell a similar pact to China. He committed the United States to cut U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions by at least 26 percent by 2030, and in return the Chinese said they would try to do something, maybe, and besides, its emissions would probably level off by 2030. Since then, China has rebuffed attempts to make anything binding about that pledge. Promises easily made are easily broken, especially to the easily gulled.
India and China have no doubt noticed the fate of other nations lured into the green embrace and found themselves trapped. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel was tilting toward windmills and other renewable energy projects when she announced a phase-out of its nuclear power plants by 2022 in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Desperate to make up for the loss of 22 percent of its electricity provided by nuclear plants, Germany instead watched its greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals go up in the smoke of new coal-burning power plants. Germans have seen their electricity bills rise 60 percent during the past five years.
Spain offered attractive incentives for customers to install expensive solar panels and in addition sold electricity to consumers below cost, but an exploding deficit forced the government to reduce the subsidies a year ago. In Britain, subsidies for solar and wind energy projects have doubled fuel bills over eight years. The Europeans are beginning to look at the fare before climbing aboard the climate-change bandwagon.